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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Claws of Axos (Special Edition)


Starring: Jon Pertwee
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 22 October 2012

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, a saying which only the Doctor appears to remember when the Axos arrive on Earth offering humanity access to Axonite, a molecule which can replicate any substance, instantly solving the worlds shortages of material. In return, all they ask is the chance to refuel. Initially the British representative is hostile to their arrival until greed takes over with the offer of unlimited power. The Axons have come to Earth not only with an unbelievable offer; hidden within their ship they have a prisoner, The Master...

The Claws of Axon was the third story in season eight, with Jon Pertwee (The Doctor) and Katy Manning (Jo Grant). The story originally ran between 13 March and 03 April 1971. Written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, the story was directed by Michael Ferguson.

The show opens with the representative of the British government, Mr Chinn, arguing with Lethbridge-Stewart about the Doctor's identity and the fact that he has not been defined by being placed within a formal identity, in quick procession the Doctor berates him about his jingoistic and racist attitude, the American agent, Filer, excludes him from important information and Lethbridge-Stewart deliberately side-lines him from the investigation. However, that does not dissuade Chinn from his path and having gained control of the investigation moves down the path of shooting first before he knows if the incoming ship is hostile or not.

This is Who at its most anti-establishment. The portrayal of Chinn, the governmental representative, including his name is designed to highlight the man’s stupidity. They even cast Peter Bathurst, a rotund actor, with a double chin. Not that the show had a problem with either authoritarian organisations or individuals. In the guise of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), U.N.I.T and its main personnel, Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) and Sergeant Benton (John Levene) authority is also shown to have a benign form, tempered with a stoic British outlook on honour and bravery. The American character of Filer (Paul Grist) remains almost superfluous to the overall story, he has little power or authority after the first ten minutes of the show.

Standing above these pillars of influence, the Doctor remains the balancing voice of reason, more humane than the humans and yet not as impressed with the Axons claims of bringing an era of unlimited food and power. Even the third pillar of power in the show, that of science, represented by Hardiman (Donald Hewlett) and Winser (David Savile), is quickly seduced by the idea of unlimited power, leaving all their sense of reason and incredulity, regarding the apparently one way trade as without fault.

The story suffers from many of the same problems which beset Who once the decision was made to strand the Doctor on Earth, leaving only two types of story, the alien invasion and the struggle for power from a more terrestrial source. Using only three locations, the interior of the experimental power station, which the Axons land next to, outside shots and the interior of the Axons ship, really a single organism, limited the visual look of the show, though this is mainly a consequence of production decisions, rather than any failure of imagination on the part of the writers. Indeed the show is able to portray the story in an almost psychedelic way, with the use, of what was then, cutting edge technology.

The extensions of the ship appear in two guises, one is a golden skinned humanoid, designed to appeal to the humans and a large lumbering creature that resembles nothing more than a large pile of lumbering spaghetti, appealing only to those of Italian descent.

Unknown to the Doctor the Axons have previously captured the Doctor's most difficult adversary, The Master (Roger Delgado), who unfortunately had been shoehorned into a story not designed to accommodate the character and so like the American agent, regardless of Delgado’s fine acting the character still feels superfluous.

As a technical achievement the DVD is a little wonder when you consider that two of the episodes only existed in black and white and the Restoration Team have done an astounding job at recreating the whole story. The two episodes that required the most reconstruction as softer in look, but not noticeably.

The whole show is presented on a two disc DVD set. The first disc has the restored story, with English subtitles. Extras on the disc include Deleted and Extended Scenes (27 min), still entitled The Vampire From Space, the show’s original title. Most of it appears to consist of the original uncut shooting scenes. The disc also contains an informative full length commentary with contributions from Barry Letts, Katy Manning, and Richard Franklin. The disc also contains the production information text.

Disc two continues the extras, kicking off with Axon Stations! (26 min, 41 sec) which details the making of the story with Katy Manning, Bob Baker, Terrance Dicks and Michael Ferguson, it’s the usual informative piece. Now and Then (6 min, 36 sec) takes a modern look at the show's external locations, narrated by Katy Manning. Directing Who (14 min, 45 sec) has Michael Ferguson discussing this story and directing Who in general. Studio Recording (1 hr, 12 min, 48 sec) has extensive footage of the shots being set up and filmed and is the most complete single recording session to remain in existence.

The oddest extra is Living with Levene (35 min, 11 sec) which has Toby Hadoke doing his Louis Theroux impression, spending extensive time with the actor who played Sergeant Benton. It’s a personal piece and all the more interesting for being so. There are some stories from his Who days, but mostly the piece is about the man. The disc is wrapped up with the PDF’s, a photo gallery and the Coming Soon (2 min, 15 sec) for Shada and the documentary More than 30 Years in the Tardis.

Overall, this is an impressive package, both in terms of the quality of the restoration, but also the extensive extras on offer. The story itself may be a little generic for this period of Who, but then the financial and location restrictions placed on writers meant that many similar stories were filmed. That said this would make a very nice addition to and Who fan's collection.


Charles Packer

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